Magazines vs digital startups
There are a handful of people who have turned digital media properties into steady money-spinners; Nick Denton springs to mind, and the reason that the Bleacher Report sold for $180 million is just that it was extremely profitable. But Dumenco’s talking about how the press likes to ‘treat venture capitalists like rock stars’, and venture capitalists aren’t in the business of cashing quarterly dividend checks. The big difference between VC owners and the rest of us is that VC owners expect their companies to lose money. That, in many ways, is their big competitive advantage: they’re sitting on enormous amounts of money entrusted to them by their investors, and it’s their job to spend that money in a no-holds-barred attempt to build the most valuable companies they can. Until, after five or ten years, they have that glorious exit.
I’m no great fan of VCs, while I’ve been a lover of magazines all my life. But the overwhelming majority of my media consumption these days is digital, and magazines in general are beginning to seem a bit slow and uninspired. I go to the airport newsstand because I know I’ll be asked to turn my electronic devices off — and even then, more often than not, I end up buying nothing.
All the magazines I’ve had over the years have had some kind of ‘wow’ factor — something which made them seem a few steps ahead of wherever I happened to be. I still get that ‘wow’ factor today — but I get it almost entirely online. The age of the magazine is coming to an end, slowly; the age of digital is only in its infancy. And that is why, Simon, the uncertainties of digital ultimately trump the storied legacy of print.